Lightroom: Dark Prints

category: Lightroom • 2 min read

I do not have an inkjet printer anymore. My printer died 2½ years ago. Buying a new printer would be a $1,000 after tax and at the time ink was more expensive than gold! Now ink is cheaper than gold, not by much, but that’s because gold has skyrocketed in the last 2 years. I use both a lab and Costco for their cheap next day service.

The problem, with both, is that the print doesn’t match the screen. Color calibration has nothing to do with it. The photo looks great in Lightroom on the screen, but the photo looks flat and somewhat dark on the print. Almost all of my photos are printed on matte/semi-matte papers and on canvas.

The colors almost match 1. It’s close enough for me. If I were to increase the exposure for the print, I would blow many or most of the highlights. After some tests and many errors, I found that I need to increase the brightness by +20 to +50 from what the screen shows.

  • The exposure adjusts the whole photo.
  • The brightness adjusts the mid-tones of the photo.

I have:

  1. A collection set for all the photos to be printed.
  2. A collection for each customer/project within the collection set. I only print from these collections, never from any other collection. That way, I can always reprint, matching to what they already got.

I create a virtual copy in that customer/print collection set. If the image is a dark photo with many shadows, Brightness: existing +45 with a preset. If the image is light with only a few shadows, Brightness: existing +20 with a preset.

If the print will be 11” by 14” or larger, then I usually create a test print with 3 or 4 identical sections (usually including the eyes) at +20, +30, +40 and sometimes +50. Then I will make the final adjustment based on the results.

  1. The monitor is calibrated and I use their printer profiles.